EU Video Game Retrospect: KOTOR
By Tyler Campobasso
Perhaps an unsung component of the Expanded Universe that should be brought to light for more fans are the video games. Not stories that one watches or reads, but ones they themselves take part in the story. From an epic score to one of the most memorable Star Wars stories of all time, Knights of the Old Republic has it all.
I played KotOR primarily on my ipad for a while, before I got it on steam, like a normal person. What I remember was just enjoying the environments and gameplay that it had to offer. As I grow with the game I try different builds, and am able to actually understand the dice damage rolls and such. That’s all besides the point, however. What this game presented to myself and so many others was not just a fantastic EU story, but a phenomenal experience altogether. I’d spend hours just walking around Dantooine, exploring the Jedi Enclave and listening to the amazing planet theme. Many others share this same sentiment and is why Knights of the Old Republic is regarded by plenty of fans as the greatest Star Wars game, ever.
For some brief history, Knights of the Old Republic was released in 2003 for pc and the original Xbox. Developed by Bioware, Lucasarts gave the devs a choice as to where the game would be placed in the timeline, either an Attack of the Clones game, or one set 4,000 years in the past. As fate would have it, Bioware chose the latter. One of the lead writers, Drew Karpyshyn (The Old Republic: Revan, Darth Bane Trilogy, The Old Republic: Annihilation) wanted more creative freedom with their proposed story, and setting it thousands of years before the prequels seemed to do the job well.
Before getting into the story, there are a few things that must be mentioned. To start, KotOR introduces some of the most popular Expanded Universe characters, such as Revan, Darth Malak, Bastila Shan, Canderous Ordo and more. One of the best aspects of the game, the companions provide some good laughs, and even more well written characters into your journey.
Officially beginning in the year 3956 BBY, fans should recognize this time period as roughly 40 years removed from the Great Sith War and the time of Exar Kun. Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma and Nomi Sunrider are all mentioned throughout the story. One location the player can visit is a space station orbiting Yavin IV. The owner of the station says he was once forced to serve Exar Kun, a neat connection. Even a lightsaber crystal from one of Kun’s temples can be bought and used. But enough about the past, let’s dwell into the present story.
As a disclaimer, we will be following the canon playthrough, that of a lightside male character. Keep in mind there are dark side options, and I will mention the important ones as we go. The player character awakens to explosions and alarms blaring, unaware of their surroundings. They are told by Trask Ulgo (from the Alderaanian house) that they are under attack by Sith warships. Ulgo also mentions they are on the Endar Spire, a Republic warship carrying an important Jedi passenger. After fighting through waves of Sith troopers, the player and Trask come across a Dark Jedi, who Trask sacrifices himself so our controlled character can escape. Now being contacted by Republic captain Carth Onasi, a main character, the player and Carth escape to the planet below. The planet, Taris, has appeared in many works, including the Knights of the Old Republic comic line, the games The Old Republic and Empire at War, the novels Millennium Falcon, Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, and more. The player experiences a vision now, of an unidentified woman battling a Dark Jedi. This woman is Bastila Shan, the Jedi passenger the Endar Spire was tasked with protecting. As you awaken, you and Carth scour the upper city of taris for a way to escape the planet. Taris is a planet of cities, much like that of Coruscant. The story takes you to the upper city, lower city and undercity. There in the lower city cantina you meet Mission Vao and Zaalbar, an unlikely team. Mission, a young Twi’lek and Zaalbar, a Wookiee, are good friends who have been surviving the hardships of Taris looking for a way off-planet. Also in the lower city you meet Canderous Ordo, a mercenary who was once a Mandalorian Neo-Crusader. Canderous is one of the coolest characters in the game, and he returns as Mandalore the Preserver in KOTOR II. After infiltrating swoop gang bases and rescuing Zaalbar in the sewers with Mission, you now are tasked with rescuing Bastila. Captured by the gang the Vulkars, the player must first win a swoop race. After winning, Bastila will use the force to open her cage and ignite a gang brawl in the lower city streets. After succeeding, Canderous orders you to pick up a droid that could infiltrate the Sith base on the planet, and access the codes needed to escape Taris. The droid, T3-M4 is an astromech unit, and joins you on your quest.
After “rescuing” Bastila (she emphasizes she did not need saving many times) and stealing the clearance codes from the Sith base, the crew must now escape Taris before the Sith squeeze the planet any more. Joining forces with Canderous, the player infiltrates The Exchange's base, a powerful criminal organization. The Exchange also has multiple appearances, in the sequel game and The Old Republic MMO. There the crew steals the Ebon Hawk, a Dynamic-class freighter and the fastest ship in the sector (your Millennium Falcon in game). As the Sith begin to orbital bombard Taris, the player and their new friends barely escape in time, leaving not only Taris behind, but Darth Malak. Malak is the former apprentice of Darth Revan before Malak betrayed him and seemingly killed him. The crew of the Ebon Hawk set a course for Dantooine, home of the Jedi Enclave.
Now on Dantooine, Bastila brings you before the Jedi Council to test you. On Taris, your character received a vision of Bastila fighting Sith Lord Darth Revan just before Malak betrayed him. She recognized your force sensitivity and has now asked for you to be trained. Reluctantly, the council accepts, much like with Anakin in The Phantom Menace. As you face the Jedi Trials your connection to the force grows, and so does your Force Bond with Bastila. You are given a choice as to what class you would like to play from three options: consular, guardian and sentinel. Also chosen is lightsaber color, which coincides with what class you choose. For the final trial, the council directs you to an ancient grove that has been “tainted”. They task you with cleansing this taint, whatever it may be. This disturbance turns out to be a young Cathar woman named Juhani, who has fallen to the dark side. After doing battle, the player has the choice of sparing her or convincing her to come back to the light. If you spare her, she will go on to join you in your missions but if you choose to strike her down, you gain dark side points and will not receive her as a companion. Back to the Jedi Council, they then send you on your next assignment: Investigate some ancient ruins. A jedi was sent but no word has been returned from him. In the ruins is an unidentified droid model that speaks in a cycle of languages to the player and speaks of the “builders”. The builders constructed something called the “Star Forge” but that eludes any of the character's knowledge. More on these builders will come later but for now the player must solve a puzzle and open the main door in the ruins. Inside is a Star Map, with incomplete coordinates. The other locations are noted on the map to complete it. Showing the map to the council, they give you the main quest of the game: Complete the maps to find the Star Forge and stop the Sith. Now back on the Ebon Hawk with your companions, you are given the choice of five locations to travel to. The planets housing the other portions of the map are Kashyyyk, Tatooine, Manaan and Korriban. You can also travel to Yavin, but it is not a required location.
The canonical route is to travel to Tatooine first. The player receives a vision of theStar Map in a cave, a vision that will prove useful later. When landing in Anchorhead, the crew is approached by Czerka Corporation. Czerka is a galaxy wide corporation that specializes in weapons, mining, slavery and much more. In the Czerka office, the player is directed to deliver Sand People Gaffi sticks for a bounty and thin their ranks. Also noted that a Duro outside advises that a peaceful solution is possible, if a translation droid is acquired. In the Anchorhead cantine you meet the mother of Bastila, who has been looking for her. She tells Bastila her father is dead, she is dying and to find her father’s holocron out in the Dune Sea. Next, checking a droid shop owned by the Ithorian Yuka Laka, the player can purchase one of the most notable droids in the entire Expanded Universe: HK-47. The maniacal protocol/assassin droid enters your service and makes peace with the Sand People possible. Worth noting the and People are not called Tusken raiders as of yet, because the Fort Tusken incident has not yet happened. Bringing an end to the hostilities between the Sand People and Czerka, the Sand People Chief gives the player a map that leads them to the Star Map Finding hunter Komad Fortuna (yes, Fortuna) the player assists him in taking down a Krayt Dragon. Inside the dragon’s cave is the second Star Map and the holocron of Bastila’s father. She can either give the holocron back to her mother or keep it, the choice is up to you. Upon leaving the cave, the player is approached by Calo Nord, a bounty hunter whom they escaped from on Taris. After defeating him, they are now free to leave.
Traveling to Kashyyyk next, it is personal for Zaalbar. Turns out Zaalbar was exiled from Kashyyyk for attacking his brother Chuundar for selling other Wookiees into slavery. Upon arrival the player and Zaalbar are taken to the village of Rwookrrorro. Chuundar forces the player to track down a mad Wookiee in the Shadowlands, the most dangerous part of Kashyyyk. Unknown to the characters, Chuundar is in league with the Czerka Corporation and has been selling Wookiee slaves to them for higher profits. Now in the Shadowlands, the player must fight through beasts in search of this mad Wookiee. Also in the Shadowlands is an old man, who identifies himself as Jolee Bindo. A former Jedi, he left the order due to philosophical differences. He is what people call a Gray Jedi, meaning he follows the light side, just not the Jedi Code. With Bindo, the characters continue through the Shadowlands, they find the mad Wookiee. The Wookiee is named Freyyr, who is Zaalbar and Chuundar’s father. Also exiled, Freyyr and the player find the Blade of Bacca, the symbol of the Wookiee chieftain. Also in the Shadowlands is an ancient terminal, which tests the player and reveals the third Star Map. Now returning to Rwookrrorro, the player meets Freyyr and Zaalbar in the Wookiee throne room for a final confrontation with Chuundar and the Czerka Corporation. Chaos ensuing, the false chieftain and Czerka are slain. Zaalbar is free from his exile, and his father gifts him Bacca’s Ceremonial Blade. The rest of the Wookiees rebel against Czerka and force them off-planet.
In a brief interlude, Darth Malak discovers that Calo Nord has failed, and sends another asset to find the player and Bastila. This time it is his new apprentice, Darth Bandon.
Next up is Manaan, an oceanic planet. Manaan is the sole provider of Kolto to the galaxy, a healing substance. Much like bacta, Kolto is very sought-after by the Republic and Sith alike. The player meets with Roland Wann, the Republic ambassador to Manaan. Wann directs the player to retrieve a probe droid from the Sith embassy, because of its sensitive information stored inside. After fighting through the base and retrieving the droid, the player and your companions are arrested outside for breaking into the embassy. Put on trial, the player pleads their case to the Manaan judges, who find the player innocent and let you go. With the information Wann tells the player about a secret underwater research station away from the eyes of the Manaan government and the Sith. he tasks you with finding out what went wrong down there and why the Republic has not heard any word from it. Traveling to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible, the player finds crazed Selkath and dead scientists throughout. After finding two live scientists, they tell the player that a giant firaxan shark caused all the Selkath on the station to go insane and start killing all inside. Now facing a decision, the player destroys the Kolto harvester to calm the shark down and leave. If the player chooses to kill the shark, they poison the Manaan ocean. Also near the shark is the fourth Star Map, on the ocean floor. Returning to the sub, the player runs into Darth Bandon and a pair of Dark Jedi beside him. Doing battle, Bandon is defeated and returns to the embassy. The player is detained yet again, but is let go after saying the shark is still alive. The shark was a mythical creature which the Selkath believed was sacred. Allowed to leave, the player sets course to Korriban.
While en route to Korriban, the Ebon Hawk and her crew are caught in a tractor beam by a Sith warship. It turns out to be the Leviathan, which Carth recognizes as the ship of his former mentor and Sith admiral, Saul Karath. The crew devises a plan to spring their escape once captured. One companion is sent to wait and free the player, Bastila and Carth. Once captured, the player is tortured by Karath, who informs them that Darth Malak is near. Once the chosen companion frees the player, they head towards the bridge of the Leviathan to turn off the tractor beam and free the Ebon Hawk. Once the bridge is reached, a battle with Karath and the bridge crew is initiated. After defeating all the Sith forces, the dying Karath calls Carth over to him. Whispering something to him, Carth is angered and lashes out at Bastila for not telling him. What he means is unknown as of now to the player. Now almost at the hangar, Darth Malak himself reveals himself. Not only does he reveal himself, he reveals who the player is: the former Darth Revan. After Revan’s defeat, he was taken back to the Jedi Enclave and had his mind wiped. He was given the very identity you start the game with. Now being taunted by Malak, the player is thrown into a vision revealing all the clues along the way. Malak also mentions that the Sith bombed Dantooine and destroyed the Jedi Enclave. With their identity revealed, Malak attacked Revan, Bastila and Carth. Sacrificing herself, Bastila closes the door leaving only her and Malak so the player and carth can escape. On to the Ebon Hawk.
Feeling betrayed, Carth forces the player to tell the secret to the entire crew. Starting with Mission, the crew pledges their support to Revan, citing that he is no longer the evil dark lord he once was. Carth promises to put this revelation behind him for now so they can find the final Star Map and rescue Bastila. Now, onto Korriban for real this time.
The crew sets the Ebon Hawk down in the settlement of Dreshdae, right outside the sith academy. Posing as a new recruit, Revan meets one of the academy’s supervisors, Yuthura Ban. She says to go to the academy where you can become a trainee after she senses the power within you. When inside the academy, Revan is introduced to Uthar Wynn, the headmaster of the academy. In order to progress at the academy, each trainee must gain prestige. To gain prestige, an apprentice must complete a set of tasks. Some such tasks include finding the sword of Ajunta Pall, finding a group of rogue students, and more. These tasks can be completed in the Valley of the Dark Lords, which originates from Dark Empire, and has subsequent appearances in Tales of the Jedi, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Republic, Legacy and more. After completing a number of these tasks Uthar Wynn will take you to the tomb of Naga Sadow for your final test. Fighting two terentateks, Revan goes deeper into the tomb, uncovering the fifth and final Star Map to lead him to the Star Forge. Returning to Uthar, the final challenge is to defeat Master Yuthura. Here, the player can choose to side with Uthar, side with Yuthura or neither. The light side option here is to side with Yuthura, kill Uthar then redeem her. She accepts the Jedi way once again and leaves Korriban, as do you.
Punching the final coordinates into the ship, the crew finally uncovers the location of the Star Forge. When the Ebon Hawk arrives in the system, it is trapped in a sort of disruption field from the planet below. Before crashing on the planet, Carth is able to send the coordinates of the Star Forge to the Republic fleet for an attack. While searching the planet, Revan discovers the ancient Rakata people, who were the builders mentioned way back when on Dantooine. Pointing him to the Temple of the Ancients, Revan is joined by Jolee and Juhani who sense great danger inside. After fighting to the top of the temple, Bastila is there waiting for Revan. Now fallen to the dark side, Bastila taunts Revan to reclaim his dark identity and bring chaos to the galaxy once more. Bastila is driven back by the three Jedi and escapes back to the Star Forge. Disabling the disruption field, the crew is able to escape off the planet and join the already started battle above the planet.
Docking in one of the Star Forge’s hangars, Revan and his companions battle through wave upon wave of Sith. Now alone, Revan reaches Bastila’s chamber for a final encounter. Revan defeats Bastila with not much issue and she pleads for him to take her life. Revan refuses and shares his true feelings for the fallen Jedi. Bastila reluctantly shares her own feelings, which happen to be the same. Through their shared love and force bond, Revan is able to bring Bastila back from the dark side. Now that Bastila is using her legendary battle meditation against the Sith, the battle turns the tide in the Republic’s favor. Now Revan reaches the main bservary deck of the Star Forge for an epic final confrontation with his former apprentice. After a grueling duel, Malak is defeated and accepts his defeat at the hands of a superior opponent. And just like that, Malak is dead.
Back on the planet below, Rakata Prime, a ceremony is constructed to honor all the crew of the Ebon Hawk. As the crew looks off into the sunset, the Republic has won the day.
Now to be frank, this game is incredible. Not only is the story fantastic, but the characters are all very memorable as well. Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of the game is the soundtrack. Composed by Jeremy Soule, the soundtrack breathes new exciting life into an ancient era in Star Wars history. It takes portions of the force theme for certain scores, like Bastila’s theme, and it just sounds fantastic. The story is also mentioned plenty of times in the Expanded Universe. We see Darth Bane go to Rakata Prime and search for Revan's holocron, the planets Taris and Manaan appear in more media, and much, much more.
To end, Knights of the Old Republic is such an incredible experience and adds so much to the Expanded Universe that every fan can enjoy. It is highly recommended to any fan that wants an introduction to the Old Republic era, or even an introduction to EU games! Characters like Canderous, HK-47 and T3-M4 go on to play major roles in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, which may also be reviewed in time!
Thank you for reading and may the force be with you, always